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The energy future, as seen from Denmark

Nicholas Keyes's picture
Photo by Blue Square Thing via FlickrDriving across the Danish countryside, they cannot be missed: towering white wind turbines as far as the eye can see, their slow-turning blades providing a 21st century counterpoint against the flat landscape of fields and farmhouses.
Denmark has committed to renewable energy further and faster than any country in Europe.  The Scandinavian nation generates a third of its annual electricity demand from wind, and solar capacity is growing as well. For countries that want to green their energy mix, there is no better place to get a glimpse of the future than Denmark. 
Its pioneering spirit has brought great benefits, and international acclaim, but like all first movers, Denmark is also learning as it goes. 
To tap into this learning, ESMAP—the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program—organized a study tour to, Denmark’s transmission system operator, as part of its work to help client countries integrate variable renewable energy into their electricity grids. Joining the study tour were 26 participants—representatives from regulators, system operators and utilities from 13 countries, including South Africa, Chile, China, Pakistan, Zambia, and Morocco.

Mind, Society, and Behavior – and Financial Inclusion

Douglas Randall's picture

Like many World Bankers, I took some time recently to look through the newly released 2015 World Development Report “Mind, Society, and Behavior.” From my perspective, in the Finance and Markets Global Practice, one thing jumped out immediately: The report is packed with insights that are directly relevant to our work on financial inclusion.

In the Overview alone, the reader is met with an abundance of findings related to consumer protection, financial capability, savings and other key topics involving financial inclusion (grouped together under the theme of “household finance,” which is fully explored in Chapter 6). We’re told of how changes to the framing of payday-loan terms dramatically altered borrowing behavior in the Unitedc States; how embedding financial messages in an engaging television soap opera in South Africa improved the financial choices of viewers; and how SMS reminders increased saving rates in Bolivia, Peru and the Philippines.

Of course, this is not the first body of work to summarize key behavioral lessons learned from decades of careful research on financial inclusion: See, for example, Chapters 6-9 of Banerjee and Duflo’s Poor Economics or the Bank’s 2014 GFDR on Financial Inclusion.) But these examples do help drive home the key message of the report: Paying attention to how people think, and to how history and context shape their thinking, can improve the design and implementation of development policies and interventions that target human behavior.

The report highlights that psychological impulses such as present bias, loss aversion and cognitive overload can lead to poor financial decision-making. For those in or on the edge of poverty, the ramifications of these poor decisions – low savings, chronic over-indebtedness, investment shortsightedness – can be devastating. We are reminded that most adults in developing economies do not benefit from the sophisticated financial tools such as automatic salary deposits, mandatory retirement contributions, or default insurance programs that help mitigate the effects of automatic thinking.

Yet, as outlined in Chapter 6, there are a range of interventions that have been shown to help address behavioral constraints on financial decisions in a developing-country context. Many of those interventions take advantage of what we know about the natural processes of the mind, using techniques such as framing, default settings and emotion persuasion to nudge people toward better financial decisions.

Five ways technology is improving public services

Ravi Kumar's picture

If you live in a country where electricity never or rarely goes out, you are lucky. In my country, Nepal, we are pleased when we get uninterrupted electricity for even eight hours a day.

Like Nepal, many countries around the world struggle to deliver basic services to their citizens. But things are slowly improving.Here are five examples of how technology is improving public services.

1. Participatory budgeting

Community health worker at the Marechal Health Center
Photo Credit: Dominic Chavez/World Bank

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, citizens of South Kivu Province are using “mSurvey” to obtain information about budget meetings. Using just their mobile phones, they can actively monitor, discover what was decided at meetings, and evaluate those decisions via online voting. The Participatory Budgeting project encourages accountability by actively reminding local authorities of their commitments while ensuring that citizens are getting services they deserve.

Creating and Sustaining an Essential Partnership for Food Safety

Juergen Voegele's picture
Photo by John Hogg / World BankThis week, the Global Food Safety Partnership will hold its third annual meeting in Cape Town, just ahead of the holiday season when food safety issues are not on everyone’s minds. They should be. Unsafe food exacts a heavy toll on people and whole economies, and is cited as a leading cause of more than 200 illnesses. However, safe food does not need to be a luxury—which is something that motivates and animates our work at the World Bank Group. Food availability alone does not guarantee food safety. Increasingly, we are learning how food safety affects people, and disproportionately impacts the lives and livelihoods of poor people.This growing awareness about food safety is partly because of the food scares that have shaken many countries in recent years. Food safety incidents occur anywhere in the world—both in industrialized and developing countries alike and in countries large and small...

At the Heart of the Matter: Improved Market Access to Food Supplies

Bill Gain's picture
Hi-Las workers weighing and sizing mangoes. Source -

At the Ninth WTO Ministerial Conference held in Bali on December 2013, all WTO members reached an agreement on trade facilitation and a compromise on food security issues, a contentious topic which had previously stalled talks during the 2008 Doha Development Round. The “Bali Package,” as it came to be known, was quickly heralded as an important milestone, reaffirming the legitimacy of multilateral trade negotiations while simultaneously recognizing the significant development benefits of reducing the time and costs to trade.

Seven months after the Bali Ministerial Conference, however, the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) has yet to be ratified as India is concerned that insufficient attention has been given to the issue of food subsidies and the stockpiling of grains. India maintains that agreements on the food security issue must be in concert with the TFA.
Despite the current impasse in implementing the Bali decisions, the food security concern at the heart of the matter sheds light on the importance of improving the agribusiness supply chains of developing countries to ensure maximum efficiencies. Consider the fact that in 2014, farmers will produce approximately 2.5 billion tons of food. Yet, 1.3 billion tons are lost or wasted each year between farm and fork, while 805 million people suffer from chronic hunger.

Women and girls are the answer to innovation in Africa

Maleele Choongo's picture
4 Will You Take On... Take On Extreme Poverty 2:11 / 2:11 Poverty and Hardship in the PacificWorld Bank1:02:02 Rwanda: A Model for Building Strong Safety NetsWorld Bank4:32 My New Life: Primary Education for All in IndiaWorld Bank4:39 Applis mobiles pour
Women in Senegal traditionally have few chances to acquire computer or programming skills. A young woman from Dakar has set out to change that. Binta Coudy De has created a tech hub, Jjiguene Tech Hub, that trains young women in computer and programming skills, preparing them for a career in the high-tech sector.

According the World Bank’s latest report on the state of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) research in Africa, African researchers produce only 1 percent of the world’s research.

As shown in this video, unlocking the talent of women and girls could improve the quality and quantity of scientific research and tech innovation in Africa.

Good Research, Great Video: What’s the Best Way to Motivate Community Health Workers?

Duncan Green's picture

Some more innovative work from the London School of Economics. This genuinely thought-provoking 8 minute video describes a collaboration between the LSE-hosted International Growth Centre and Zambia’s Ministry of Health. The background academic paper is here.

Researchers and officials worked together to answer an important question: to motivate people in rural villages to become rural community health workers (CHWs), is it best to appeal to their community spirit, or to their hopes for individual career development? If you do the latter, will people lose their link to the community, and replicate the problem with more standard professional health workers, many of whom hate working in rural areas, and head for the city?

To do that, they divided up 160 villages targeted for recruitment. In half they put up posters that stressed ‘come and serve your community’, in the rest they put the emphasis on careers (see above: figures 1a and 1b of the paper). Sure enough, the posters attracted different kinds of people to apply for CHW training.

Lessons from the Field: Prepaid Water in Urban Africa

Chris Heymans's picture

Can prepaid systems become an instrument to improve access and quality of water services to poor people in African cities and towns? Or does prepayment deny poor people more access to water? Do prepaid systems cost too much and impose more technical, affordability and social pressure on service providers already struggling to cope with growing demand? And what do customers think?

Juggling Labor, Credit, and Crops in Zambia

Kelsey Jack's picture

Experimental harvest of provitamin A-enriched orange maize, Zambia, 2010. Photo credit: Flickr @CIMMYT

When one part of the local economy fails, it spills over into other parts of the economy. Maybe this isn't so surprising. However, recent research in Zambia highlights a less obvious link: farmers who can't get access to credit during the hungry season (January to March) increase their off-farm labor supply, drive down wages, and maybe even undermine their own agricultural yields.Fortunately, there is new evidence that providing consumption loans can help farmers invest in their own fields, and — we hope — boost their productivity.

Food Safety in Zambia: How Small Improvements Can Have Big Impact

Artavazd Hakobyan's picture

Food Safety is becoming a priority in Zambia. The government is revising its food safety strategy and preparing new legislation to improve and modernize food safety governance.  In the private sector, a number of food enterprises are upgrading their food safety practices to stay on par with their peers abroad and cater to increasingly demanding consumers.

These improvements are timely and appropriate. While the extent of foodborne risks in Zambia isn’t fully known, recurrent cholera and typhoid outbreaks as well as the fact that 60 percent of the population suffers from diarrhea suggest that foodborne pathogens, poor hygiene and sanitation and other food safety risks are having a negative impact. Anecdotal information supports this point. In conversations with partners in Zambia, over a cup of coffee or dinner, I asked what they thought could cause diarrhea? Most of them responded that it was probably something they ate. They complained that while diarrhea was not a “big deal,” and that “their stomachs were used to bacteria,” it reduced productivity because they had to take sick days away from work. Aside from causing a high death rate among children and the elderly, these diseases place a significant burden on straining public health services, reduce the productivity of the working population and constrain development. Furthermore, the economic and human costs of these diseases are huge.